BIT plane

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This article is about Natalie Jeremijenko and the Bureau of Inverse Technology's project. For the company, see Bitplane. For the digital information term, see bit plane.

The BIT plane is a radio-controlled model airplane, designed by the Bureau of Inverse Technology and equipped with a micro-video camera and transmitter. Its name could be a possible reference to bit plane, meaning a set of digital discrete signals. In 1997 it was launched on a series of sorties over the Silicon Valley to capture an aerial rendering. Guided by the live control-view video feed from the plane, the pilot on the ground was able to steer the unit deep into the glittering heartlands of the Information Age.

Most of the corporate research parks in Silicon Valley are no-camera zones and require U.S. citizen status or special clearance for entry. The bit plane (citizenship undisclosed) flew covertly through this rarified information-space, buzzing the largest concentration of venture capital in the world, to return with several hours of aerial footage.


Jeremijenko's BIT plane project poses several issues concerning the issues of information sharing and exclusion. In her video, she breaks several laws concerning air traffic and shared airspace regulations in the Palo Alto area. The camera is used as a threatening tool in the battle over information space. The BIT Plane project unearths the most dense region of information in the world in order to illustrate broader issues of information control. Consider surveillance of city streets, Google Earth [1], and Internet exploration, for example.

The project also addresses the nature of public and private information and property. Similar projects have since been undertaken—specific similarities can be observed in Robin Hewlett and Ben Kinsely's Street with a view, during which the two artists organized several costumed and coordinated performances during Google Maps' Street View mapping process. The project both introduces fiction into a world of intended reality and addresses the nature of private control over the seemingly public streets of Pittsburgh. It was the first-ever artistic intervention to be featured on Google Street View.[1] Both projects raise the question of who is in control, and over whose property?

The video also comments on the tangibility of information. Today we see information as tangible because it is traceable. BIT Plane pushes viewers to re-evaluate what we consider information. It pushes us to consider what constitutes information and whether tangibility is necessary for it to be considered information. Viewers are provoked to consider what it is we consider intangible information. Further, the BIT plane project examines the capacity to infer social and political structures based on information gathered from the visual world.

The project addresses the idea that video and photography reinforce that information is property and therefore subject to property law. BIT believes that information does not hold to traditional property law and that is not necessarily tangible; hence, it is not subject to the forms of those laws.

Scholar Trebor Scholz held an e-mail interview for his article "New-Media Art Education and Its Discontents" [2] with Natalie Jeremijenko in 2004. A quote from the interview explicates her ideas about information: "[it is] the main challenge to teach the use of Web-based resources, not for convenience, but for restructuring of participation, and for engaging students in the primary role of the academy: to produce, underwrite, and validate the information commons."


  1. ^ Link text, additional text.

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